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The Pursuit of Beauty

I'm M.C.A. Hogarth, author and artist. I write fiction (science fiction, fantasy, romance, etc), nonfiction (mostly about business and parenthood) and draw pictures, mostly of dragons, elves and people in beautiful clothes. I am also currently (as of July 2015) serving as the Vice President of SFWA. Below you can see some of what I'm doing currently, and check up on my status.

Crowdfunding
     Kickstarter: Nothing planned until 2016!
     Patreon (mcahogarth): Get a la carte short fiction, audiobook segments, coloring book sheets, and whatever else I feel like offering up to people who are tipping me!

Writing
     Where do I start? Check my recommendations here, with links!
     Latest Releases: You can use my book launch tag to see what was most recently published.
     Newsletter: Here's my newsletter, which you can join for for news and special offers!

Art
     Latest Sale: Originals are for sale here. My Zazzle store offers prints, mugs, shirts, bags and such! Otherwise you can keep up on my offers on Livejournal through my "sale" tag.
     Archive: If you have a lot of spare time and haven't browsed it yet, I have over 3000 images available on my old website, sketches, paintings and comics.
     Deviantart: I also have a DA account at user mcah.

Cons
     Watch this Space!

Status
Balance Card 5-Card Readings: Not Available
Balance Card Keepsake Paintings: Not Available
Commissions: Not taking them.
Illustration projects: Not taking them.

P.O. Box
Email me for my address, if you'd like to request materials or send a tip or donation.


MCAH Online Home.
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I haven't been keeping you updated on Badger Shenaningans! I am sorry! The last thread was about ursulav's newest release, Harriet the Invincible (go get it!). I was confused because the first I heard about it post-release was a tweet from her husband, a day after its launch. I had my tablet with me, so I did this quickie thing:


(Note to self: Not inking with a computer ever again.)

So I got this from Ursula:


And I cheerfully responded! (Properly, with pen and ink):


Her only response:




Awww... the honey badgers are totally supportive of one another! *beams* *passes tissues*

So there you are. Follow the glitter and pick up your copy today. Look, I am including a second link to it. Because I'm pretty sure she forgot to promote it on her LJ, so someone should. >.>

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Amazon | B&N | Createspace


Many of you have asked for it, and the Jaguars listened! Today we launch the Three Jaguars Comic Collection, gathering for the first time all six months of the web comic in one volume (plus a bonus final chapter drawn specifically for this book!). It is reproduced in all its B&W glory, like the old indie comics I used to love back in the day, and looks far finer in the hand than it ever did on a website, if I do say so myself!

"But Jaguar! I missed your web comic! What's it about?"

We're glad you asked! Here's the blurb:

Being in business as a creative of any type–writer, artist, musician, craftsperson–can be intimidating. The Three Jaguars web comic tackled basic business issues for artists with humor, panache, and fur! Using the archetypes of Artist, Marketer, and Business Manager, the jaguars took on everything from troubling contract clauses to calculating return on investment. This collection includes the entirety of the 6 month run of the comic, plus bonus material drawn for this volume specifically.

Hugo Award-winning artist Ursula Vernon says “It’s better than burning your house down and taking to the sea!” So pull up a chair, a cup of coffee, and join the jaguars for fun, education, and the occasional cuddle picture! (Marketer insisted on that part!)




And that's the gist of it. But don't take my word for it! In addition to ursulav's rather colorful recommendation, the book already has reviews on Amazon: "Witty, sensible, beautifully illustrated, and entertaining" and "I can read a hundred how-to books on small businesses. This is the first book I've read that takes the time to talk about the pain, as a writer, of turning down an anthology's offer over a bad contract, and how dealing with that kind of personal creative disappointment brought on by bad business dealings can affect one's capacity to make art." Deeply flattering encomiums! I am a-squee!

This is Book #2 in my planned series of Three Jaguars business books (the first being my Kickstarter guide). This was an expensive book to produce, but if it does well, I will go on to issue the collected Three Jaguars business columns from LJ. I'm curious to see what demand will be like for this book; I have hopes, based on how quickly readers have been posting their reviews. May all its readers find it so pleasing!

And finally, because no Three Jaguars business book can launch without a marketing opportunity: some of you noticed the book hitting Amazon before my formal announcement. I'd initially had some quality issues with the artwork which I thought were limitations of the printer, and I'd drawn three pages explaining that issue. But I discovered that most of that quality problem was actually due to a mishap in my file! After fixing it, the quality issue went away, so I took out those three pages and re-uploaded. This is what caused my launch delay. If your copy of the book contains a three page preface explaining halftone screens, congratulations! You have a collector's edition! The current book does not have those pages!

Keep that copy. It might be worth something someday. *grin*

Anyway...! I am excite! Three jaguars! Comics! Business, silliness, cartoon cats drinking coffee! Go get it! And as always, if you enjoy it, please share it with friends, review it, and pass it on, with my thanks!



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As Daughter now has "Drop Everything and Read" time at school, for which she has been required to bring either a book or a "reading device (kindle)" to school every day, I have gone ahead and bit the bullet and bought her a kindle of her own, capitalizing on the "kids bundle" special Amazon was running (and my Kickstarter's amazing overfundage). This has catapulted me into the realm of managing my daughter's reading, and... I am cautiously pleased with how things work. Kindle FreeTime appears to be the parent-locked overlay on the normal Kindle OS: one chooses a password and then activates it, and it constrains the things the child can do with the device, as well as tracking their "achievements," (various things, like number of pages read, number of books read, etc). Daughter likes the gamification stuff particularly. She was chuffed when she discovered she'd already gotten several badges and was determined to continue earning them. Since she's not an avid reader—she likes reading well enough, but is far more enamored of video games and TV—I count this very successful.

However! For someone lukewarm about preferring the pleasures of reading to more interactive pursuits, Daughter reads quickly. Since I didn't want to bankrupt myself buying her chapterbooks, I finally looked into hooking up to the e-book lending library at the local library system.

Navigating the results is not as painfree as I'd like: I have to login to my library account, then use its portal to reach Overdrive. From there I select the books I want to check out, then click to download them and this delivers me to an Amazon portal. Amazon then sends the books to the kindle I've selected... if that kindle is mine. If the kindle is Daughter's, I have to go to my Amazon "Manage your Devices and Library" page, select the borrowed book, check the 'Manage Family Library options' and then manually add it to Daughter's library. Then I can hit 'deliver' and it will send it to her device.

This is pretty cumbersome, but I much prefer it to my books ending up on her device. Or my husband's for that matter. I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to read the endless stream of military SF popcorn novels and romance books I eat like chocolate. -_-

Having gone through the trouble to set up Overdrive, though, I'm finding that I enjoy it for my sake too. There are a lot of novels I simply haven't read because I can't afford them... and now I find I can check them out for free, which is great. Between the library and my Kindle Unlimited subscription, I can now get most things I might otherwise have never read because I wouldn't have had the budget. Writer-businessfolk take note! This is some anecdata for you. I am a voracious reader (several novels a week), and buy books only when they're under $7 because otherwise I can't afford them. If you make them available via Kindle Unlimited or the library, you're not losing a sale. You're gaining a possible fan who will talk up your work to others, because otherwise I wouldn't have bought the book.

This is sobering for me, because I am not in KU, and having left Smashwords I am not in the Overdrive library either. My consolation is that all my books are under $6 or so.

Anyway! So there you go: a report (preliminary) on using the library to borrow e-books, and on the kid app layer that Amazon sells for its kindles. (And if you've used FreeTime more extensively and have some tips and tricks you can share, I'm all ears!)

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Last week I started my ballet lessons at Daughter's dance academy, and I was expecting... I don't know. To be bored, honestly. I wanted to take dance lessons but the only introductory classes they offer for adults are ballet, and I figured, "Well, maybe I'll learn some basic, useful stuff I can turn around and put to work auditioning for the more interesting classes, like hip hop!" I was expecting to be bored because watching ballet does not excite fires of passion and wonder in me; I enjoy it, but it is an intellectual enjoyment. And because I took ballet as a wee thing (I might have been 5? 6?) and remembered it being mostly... boring. Just standing there, mostly in place, waving your arms around, because that's about what a child that age can handle.

But I am an adult now, and I am perhaps a little more aware that the difference between doing something well and not doing it at all is often in the details; that you find the glory there as well, the flourish, the fascination. And ballet is all in the details. I haven't been in any lesson since fencing that required me to be so aware of so many different parts of my body at the same time.

So far I have had two lessons. I am the only one in them right now, and their policy is to truncate the lesson at the half hour mark if there are under five students. So Lesson 1 was half an hour. Lesson 2 was almost a full hour because, I guess, the teacher got so into teaching that neither of us looked at the time. In that hour and a half I barely moved away from the barre. I barely moved, period. And I was working so hard that I was pouring sweat by the end of both lessons. I have never ever sweat so hard, moving so little, in my life. My heart was pounding so hard my hands were shaking on the barre between efforts.

It turns out ballet involves a lot of squats. They just call them fancy French names and then demand that you also tuck in your spine while doing them (which incidentally requires a lot of core muscle work). And ballet is a lot of very finicky postural stuff that legs and hips locked up from twenty+ years of sitting are reluctant to relax into. So a lot of the time I am spending with my teacher sitting at my feet, grabbing my thigh and turning outward and saying, "NO LIKE THIS". Or my toes and bending them: "NO LIKE THIS." Or my knee and hauling it out, "NO LIKE THIS OVER YOUR TOES STAHP"

And I sweat and sweat and do it again.

All of this is good. I love things that require a great deal of body self-discipline precisely because my body awareness is so bad. Before I took up fencing I couldn't move without being off balance. I couldn't find my own center of gravity. I staggered into walls, and smacked my arms against door frames because I didn't remember where they were. It took four months of fencing to teach me those things, but I learned, and I was stunned: I'd always believed that body awareness was something you were born with, and the rest of us poor slugs were doomed to awkwardness and gracelessness forever. To discover that even in your 30s (back then) I could learn that? Was a shocking revelation. No one had ever told me that. Athletics and sports were always about talent, and I was told early on I didn't have talent there and to give up. No one ever said, "No, actually, athletics is about hard work. Talent helps, but the hard work is what actually delivers."

If someone had said that to me when I was a child! But then I couldn't have learned it as an adult, and with it the far more shocking lesson, which is that you don't have to start as a child, or give up forever. You can be a rickety thirtysomething-year-old and learn to fence. Most people who start that late won't be as great as the kids who started early, but it's because the kids have been practicing longer... and you can be better than kids who started that early but were not rigorous about practicing. Human bodies were designed to be used, and if you start using them, they will (barring health conditions or injury) answer.

Ballet, then, teaches body awareness the way fencing does. You must be aware of your hands, your spine, your gut, your hips, your knees, your feet, your toes, your neck. All at the same time! And just like with fencing, you pay attention to one or two things and don't get them, and don't get the third or fourth, the sixth thing falls out of your head, until you despair you'll never be able to remember it all and then suddenly, months later, it snaps into place and you're like, "OH WOW WOW!"

Once again, I am remembering where I am in space, and am sheepish that it's so easy for me to forget. Cardinal Air sign to the end.

Anyway. Ballet. Exhausting. Fascinating. Very, very, very difficult. I shall continue and see where I end up.

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So Child is settling into third grade and loving it, which is fantastic. I went to the parent orientation last night, as I always do, and I'm pleased with what I'm hearing. While I would have preferred to send her to a parochial school, in the absence of a proximate one, the private school I picked for her is excellent. They have a strong STEM program—kids start out with robotics and coding in their lab in first grade, and by fourth are learning CAD to make their own 3d-printed objects—and they're strong on interdisciplinary learning. All classes are taught to themes, even Physical Education, so if the theme that quarter is "Around the World," then they do projects about different countries in library and do sports from different countries in P.E., and they learn songs in music in different languages, etc. Their first theme is about unique expression of talents, so they're having a harpist come in next week... I wish I could be there! And they're always working on the curriculum, so (for instance), I'm glad to see that they're searching for a Mandarin teacher to supplement their French and Spanish offerings in languages.

I like to joke that I bleed an arm and two legs to send her to this school, but I wouldn't if I didn't think it was worth it.

Which brings us to the PSA! Which is to remind folks that... I am not a starving artist. I work two jobs so that I can make choices like this for my daughter—I can work two jobs, which is something not everyone can because of health reasons, or because the economy where they live is depressed—and so I do, because having the money to say, "You know, the public school here bites, and I don't want my daughter in it" is more important to me than staying home to write full-time.

I'll say that again: I am okay. I am not going to starve.

One day I hope that I'll be making enough that I can make those choices without needing the second job: all of you who review my work, buy it, share it with friends, tell people about it, thank you so so much! You are bringing that day closer! And I do think, the day I can stay home, I will be absolutely a-squee because I will be able to write more for you, and publish more, and still have time to rest instead of always being quite so tired. But I don't want people to think that without your $5 book purchase RIGHT NOW I am going to be reduced to living on ramen noodles.

It is important to me that there be no emotional arm-twisting in my relationship with my patrons. Y'all are awesome. I want you to buy my work because you enjoy it, and because you like the idea of me doing nothing but this one day. No guilt or fear, okay? I'm going to be fine.

And thank you all for being awesome. :)

And now back to work with me!

Current Mood: working working

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This year is a personal milestone birthday for me and I am super-excited about it! But... I don't know how to celebrate. I want to do something special, but the default special is "Go to Disney World" and since our passes expired and we don't want to renew them that's... um... super-extremely expensive. I am not willing to spend $1500 on my celebration. >.>

So... I am cruising for ideas! What should I do? Help, Internet of Friends and Cool Peoples!

Current Mood: hopeful hopeful

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For the handful of you who hopped on the Kickstarter bandwagon and still don't have any idea what to pick, here's your chance to talk about it, ask for help, and discuss it with other folks! If you can, tell us about yourself, why you're having trouble deciding, and (if you have them), any options you are leaning toward.

Other Folks: Please, help out! Lots of you are well-versed in the universe, and I feel like a choice that lots of people help you make feels more like your choice... whereas a private discussion with the creator of the universe runs the risk of feeling like your choice is being handed down to you from on high. So please, if you think you can help someone who's asking... chime in!

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Current Mood: working working

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"Oh, look, Mommy's putting up your decorations!"

"I want to help!" And just like that, there's a child vibrating at my side, all eagerness. "Can I help??"

"Of course," I say, my arms full of streamers. "Here's the glitter, spread it on the table."

This suggestion is met with great glee: tossing glittery stuff on the table is fun. But she also does a good job of hanging her own twirly spirals from the ceiling, standing on a footstool to do it. When, I think, did she get so tall? And when did she get so apt, that I no longer have to worry about her falling off a footstool?

"What music do you want to listen to?" I ask. "It's your birthday party, you should choose... I found the old silly songs playlist, and the pony playlist—"

"I want Mr. Postman!" she says.

"Really?" I ask, bemused that she might choose the Carpenters over something more toony. "All right."

Together we hang streamers. "Sing" comes on, and she sings with me.

     Sing, sing a song
     Sing out loud
     Sing out strong
     Sing of good things not bad
     Sing of happy not sad.


The house smells of baking cookies, and of cake, and of percolating coffee. It vibrates, like Daughter does, in anticipation of laughter and the small and permanent and ephemeral joys of childhood. We are on either side of that divide, but we see each other across it and it becomes permeable. For a while, I am the child who remembers what it was like to look forward to my 8th birthday... and she is the grown-up who gets to decorate for her daughter's party.

"Sing," I sing. "Sing a song... make it simple, to last your whole life long..." I stop and say, "Take it away!"

Daughter grins and faces me, arms full of spiral decorations, still bobbing. She sings to me, "Don't worry if it's not good enough, for anyone else to hear... just sing...."

"Sing a song," I sing back.

Daughter is eight today, and her childhood is flying by. But today, it lasts forever.



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Current Mood: The Carpenters - Sing

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So. My feelings about this are complicated and sad, as you might imagine. I don't really know if anything can be said about it to make it any better. But I'd like to say, for the record, that I am the conservative, Catholic Vice President of SFWA... and if you need someone to talk to, I get it—I get both sides—and I'm here.

You can talk to me here, or find me on twitter, on the SFWA forums, or my SFWA email is m.c.a.hogarth@sfwa.org.

That's all I got.

(Well, except that Julie Dillon won Best Professional Artist and deserves that one, absolutely and without anyone, I think, having a problem with it...!)

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Current Mood: sad and tired

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Monday: Drop off Spouse at Airport for business trip, Daughter's Student Orientation, Theme Park for 5 Hours
Tuesday: Beach for 7 hours, Kickstarter ended, get last minute SFWA stuff to SFWA President for the business meeting
Wednesday: First day of Daughter's Acrobatics class, School Uniforms Purchasing, Day Job, Dinner with Grandmother/Daughter
Thursday: First day of school, Mommy's first ballet class
Friday: Second day of school, Shop for birthday presents/party supplies, pick up Spouse from Airport, first day of Daughter's Musical Theater class
Saturday: Clean house, Daughter's Birthday party

*fallsover*

*flails once, limply*

*is still, sighs with relief*

Current Mood: *flailflop*

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Back in college, I was required to take Art History classes in pursuit of my Studio Art degree. Inevitably, these classes involved a great deal of architecture, and my Medieval and Renaissance Art History classes were practically a crash course in architectural principles, styles, and Important Persons... but even the Modern Art class wanted me to understand that architecture was an art that reflected the zeitgeist of a society and its times. Walking around London I felt like I was being pummeled with the memories of those classes. Everywhere I looked, I recognized something. Most of the time, I recognized so many things I felt like those textbooks were falling on me. At one point I actually thought, "If I see ONE MORE PILLASTER...!" And then couldn't come up with a fate suitably dire, which was great, because I immediately saw another thousand pillasters. There must be a million pillasters in London.

The architecture was gorgeous. But it is incredibly strange to walk through a city that has an Art Deco bus station snugged up next to a Renaissance-style building, only to turn a corner and find Gothic arches on some other building and a Romanesque chapel hidden in some taller building's shadow.


There are also a lot of statues. This one is Queen Anne, I think. (This was at St. Paul's.) There is a spot outside this cathedral they can point to where queens have stood, and it is very strange to step over them and know for a fact that hundreds of years ago, named and known people from history have walked there.

St. Paul's also has a memorial in the apse behind the High Altar to all the Americans stationed in the UK during WWII. It's a book, and all the names are handwritten on it, and every day they turn a page so that a new set of names is displayed. I cried, and then had the difficult task of explaining to my daughter why.


London also has a lot of alleys. (Is this a weird thing to observe?) I've read all these novels set in cities in England and I finally get the whole "characters vanishing into alleys" thing, because the city has narrow little ones (when you can get between the buildings at all), and even the historical monuments are filled with these relatively narrow corridors. This one is from the Tower of London, where we saw the Crown Jewels.

The first time I saw the Crown Jewels, I was nine and you had to crowd around them to see them. Decades later, once you pass into the vault (and it is a vault—the door into it is over a foot thick), you can get on a conveyor belt and it takes you past them. No more squiggling in to see past all the taller people! Now you can ride past in dignity, and then walk around and... do it again.

The jewels remain completely unbelievable. Diamonds the size of your palm should look fake, and yet there's something about them, and your gut whispers, "They're not."


I did take the obligatory pictures of the Tower Bridge, and closer ones. But this one was taken from London Bridge—"It won't fall down!" "I know that, Mommy."—in the rain, as we were clumping from the Tower of London further into the city to look for treasure... in this case, chocolate. Next to Borough Market is a restaurant affiliated with Hotel Chocolat, and purportedly it had a chocolate place in it somewhere.


...which we did find, and it was a cold and rainy day, which made this:


...deeply enjoyable.

(I will say that I've had better hot chocolate in the States, but alas, the place that made it is gone. And this was still delicious, and novel, to need a hot drink in summer.)


Here's Trafalgar Square, as seen from the street by St. Martin in the Fields. I like this photo because I noticed later a bird is perched on this equestrian's head... (It's either Charles I or George IV? I think?)

The reliefs on Nelson's column (rising up there in the center) were cast from guns captured from the French. That seems both egregious and appropriate, I can't tell which.


From the name, I expected St. Martin in the Fields to be... in the fields. Or at least a park. Silly me. But it was a charming little church, and it's hard not to be excited to see it if you are a classical music lover. And for art lovers as well, because of the the Saint John's Bible! There are concerts at St. Martin in the Fields all the time, so we picked an evening to go listen to Vivaldi and several other Baroque composers.


...live music in this place was amazing. The acoustics were tremendous. (I can only imagine what vocal performances would be like.) It was gray and rainy and dim out of the evening, and inside it was warm and softly bright, and the performers were so close you could see the flush on their cheeks. Magical.

I took many, many random pictures of buildings in London. I don't know if it was for pleasure or for art reference for future paintings. (Does that distinction even exist in an artist's brain? Probably not.) But that sense of So Much Architecture, and So Much So Much... I don't know. Maybe all big cities have it. But I see a little why so many urban fantasies choose to fixate on cities. You can get lost in them, and it seems completely reasonable that magic might happen in corners and alleys, unremarked by all but the serendipitous passerby just waiting to get involved with enigmas beyond their ken. We created these enormous places, and yet they have a life of their own.

This is probably why the trip already feels unreal to me...! But I have some more photos to sort through, so I will have another post anon. :)

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The Kickstarter's ending at 11 AM EST! We are at $5204 with 118 backers. That's 260% funded!(!!)

I'd be surprised if any more money comes in before we fund at 11, but Lord, who knows! I didn't anticipate the money that did come in. $5200 in two weeks! That's just... what!

What!

*shakes head*

I won't be near a computer when it ends, which... is probably a good thing, or I'd be hovering over it like a vulture. Child's starting school this week, so as a last-huzzah-for-summer we're going to the beach, and contrary to popular belief Florida is not all beaches! We're going to have to drive for a while to find one. So this is a day-long excursion, and I expect to get the email that the project ended while digging for sea shells (or eating fried clams). Listen for the squeal: it'll be coming from south of most of you. *grin*

It bears repeating: you are all awesome, and I am flattered and honored that you want to come play in my world with me. I can't wait to continue drawing you all!

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Current Mood: squeesqueesquee

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I read about The "21 Days Complaint Free" challenge on Tim Ferriss's blog, and intrigued, I looked up the book. And the book was fantastic! So I decided to give it a try.

The premise is thus: You wear a bracelet on one wrist (or put a penny in one pocket, or some other physical, intentional thing). Every time you complain, criticize, gossip, snark, whine, use sarcasm, or vent, you take the bracelet off and switch it to the other wrist. Your goal is to make it through 21 consecutive days without moving the bracelet.

Unsurprisingly, I like this idea. I'm a huge proponent of mental and social hygiene: the concept that you have the responsibility to police your thoughts and words and actions in order to not feed the dark and ugly and unproductive things in you (and in the people exposed to you). I fall down a lot when chasing this ideal, but it remains one of my most cherished ones: your soul is a garden, and it is your duty to pull up the weeds and water the plants you wish to grow.

So today, accordingly, I found a bracelet a friend gave me a while ago (it was hyanan's gift, actually, of Buddhist prayer beads), donned it, and had a go at the challenge, along with a handful of other folks who decided to join me in supporting one another on twitter.

Today I switched the bracelet five times, and in the process, this is what I learned: my most common form of negativity is aimed at myself. Self-fulfilling prophecies are the most common: "I'm tired." "I don't feel well." Even when I'm not particularly tired or unwell, I default to believing that I am. I'm pretty sure this is out of an innate sense of laziness: I don't want people pushing more work on me, so I give people a reason not to load my shoulders. I also hate conflict and telling people, "I'm sorry, I can't do that for you" is innately stressful. I'd rather make excuses than be honest.

So this was a useful revelation. I am stealing my own energy. I'm too busy to do that! I need all the energy I can believe myself into having!

(My second-most common form of negativity is also aimed at myself: I criticize myself a lot. This is bad enough when it's in your own head. I discover I actually mutter some of these criticisms to myself out loud. Don't I have better things to do than to cut myself down? Argh!)

So, I failed to clock my first complaint-free day, but I'm already learning a lot about myself and what I could do to improve my outlook. Total score!

The book, by the way, is amazing. It's A Complaint-Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted. I bought it and read it in a single evening, and the entire time I was nodding my head and saying, "Yes!" And at at least one point, I cried. (It's the anecdote about the horn honking.) I highly recommend it if you're into self-improvement, and really, why not be into self-improvement? I'm all for making life more awesome for me and everyone who interacts with me!

Let's see how I do on Day 2! Anyone want to join us? :)

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